In the month of December, National Geographic Traveller India and the Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman came together to host an event in Mumbai to celebrate the best of everything that Oman had to offer. Themed ‘Changing Perceptions’, the event included conversations ranging on everything from beaches and coral reefs, to a diverse food mise en scène and centuries old history. The meet-up helped shed light on a variety of experiences that Oman has to offer.
The event was hosted at Khar Social, where the discussion ranged from the culturally rich history of Oman to well-known souq markets and more. A diverse selection of panelists included Aditi Palav, Deputy General Manager- PR & Communications, India- Ministry of Tourism Oman, travel writer Ananya Bahl, travel and food writer Phorum Dalal, owner and director at Brewbot Eatery & Brewery Ketan SS Gohel, and DNA-based journalist Mitali Parekh. The event was monitored by Mae Thomas, founder at Maed in India. Here are some of our favourite takeaways from the event:
Panelists at Sultanate of Oman Ministry of Tourism’s meet-up with the National Geographic Traveller India in Mumbai. Photo courtesy: Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman
Oman has an extensive stretch of seafront. Located in Muscat, an attractive corniche of trelliswork edifices and mosques stretches along Muttrah. Take a stroll in the evening to soak in stunning views of mountains, while pavements lend way to a bike ride. A few of the houses behind the promenade have a hint of Gujarati architecture because of the exchange of trade between India and Oman for a long time.
Oman has a vibrant food scene. Shuwa, which translates to grilled meat in Arabic is a favourite dish often prepared for special occasions. A whole lamb is marinated in Omani spices and wrapped in banana leaves or palm leaves. It is then put in an underground sand oven, where it gets cooked over one to two days. The meat becomes so succulent that it melts in your mouth. Meshkak is another popular dish. Also known as kebab, it uses marinated beef, mutton or chicken and is grilled on sticks. It is served with Omani bread, which is thin and sticky similar to a pancake.
Muttrah Souq. Photo courtesy: Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman
One of the oldest souqs in the Arab world, the Muttrah Souq is quite popular among tourists in Oman. Situated in the harbor of the old city of Muscat, it extends well within the district of Muttrah and is built in traditional Arab architectural details. Shops and kiosks with wooden roofs line on both sides of narrow alleys. Omani products such as traditional clothes, silver and gold jewellery, pottery, wooden crafts, Omani khanjars (daggers) and Omani halwa are popularly sold. Nizwa Souq located within the walls of the famous Nizwa Fort lends a very Arabian Nights feel to it. The market place houses small stores that not only sell traditional Omani products, but also manufacture them.
Oman is home to spectacular diving spots in the Middle East. Photo courtesy: Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman
Touted as the “Norway of Arabia”, the Musandam Peninsula in Oman is known for its unique fjord landscapes with craggy cliffs and spectacular bays. A lot of beaches in Oman offer overnight camping by the seaside. For those visiting the country in between May and September, turtle hatcheries are not to be missed. Of the seven types of sea turtles found in the world, five of them visit Omani waters. Ras Al Hadd and Ras Al Jinz in the region of Al Sharqiyah, the Masirah Island, Ad Daymaniyat Islands, the shores of the Dhofar region, and some of the best-known beaches in the northeastern area of the country where turtles go to lay eggs.
Daymaniyat Islands to the north of Muscat is a string of small, rocky islands encircled by coral reefs. The site is a nature reserve and important for turtle nesting. The coral reefs here run as deep as 100 feet and are home to abundant species of fishes including rays and reef sharks. Mirbat in Salalah is a great dive spot that is accessible by safari-style four-wheel vehicles. Boat trips are also optional. The waters are filled with rich marine life with morays, sharks, octopus, snapper, turtles and occasionally, dolphins. Other great diving spots in Oman include Lima Rock and The Caves in Musandam and Fahal Island in Muscat.
Built by the Portuguese in 1580s, Muttrah Fort is located on top of a rocky hill and currently consists of three circular towers. It stands tall facing the sea and was originally used for military purposes. Also known as the Ash Sharqiya Fort, the Al Jalali Fort lies in old Muscat and overlooks the Sea of Oman. Located in Nizwa, Nizwa Fort is a large castle built in 1650s. It is not only the country’s most visited monument, but also reflects the Omani architectural ingenuity. Jabreen Castle in Bahla in the Al Dakhiliyah Governorate was built in the 17th century. The fact that it was not built during the times of war distinguishes it from other Omani forts. The castle features decorated windows, wooden balconies, arches with inscribed Arabic calligraphy.
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